his beard grew long and gray

After five weeks the hitchhiker's wife grew old and gray, and one morning she curled up on the ground and died. The hitchhiker said a prayer and buried his wife. She had been a good wife. He looked off into the distance and said he would stay in no place again long enough to feel pain. The hitchiker walked to the highway and caught a ride to another town. In that town the hitchhiker wandered for several hours before falling asleep on a park bench. He slept for a week and accumulated dust and leaves and his beard grew long and gray. The hitchhiker awoke and he walked among elms, oak, and ash and wondered at the slant of sunlight as it illuminated the park in gold. He walked for many miles and left town and walked into the mountains among pines, firs, and aspens and he wondered at the slant of sunlight as he followed deer tracks in a meadow. The sky became faint and night came and the hitchhiker slept in the meadow until the sun warmed him and woke him.

on a large stone in the river bottom

It was in the river bottom where he learned the guitar. The name of the river was Hal and it flowed through the land of Hal in the country of Hal, capital city Hal. Hal learned to play guitar in the river bottom. He sat under the Hal tree and sang songs about Hal, the beautiful mountain range of granite and ice where he had been born. It was while growing up in the mountains where he first read about the philosophy of Hal and knew then that only through all things Hal would life be worth living. He sat on a large stone in the river bottom and closed his eyes and strummed his guitar. In the clear night sky, Hal shimmered bright.

others were old and yellowing

I have no links for you to peruse, said the old librarian. But is this not the place to peruse links, asked the bewildered gardener.
No, it is not.
Do you have another question?
The old librarian went back to work. There were stacks of papers at her desk. Some needed her signature. Others were old and yellowing and had been stacked on the desk for many years. The bewildered gardener continued standing at the old librarian's desk. He yawned.
May I help you?, asked the old librarian.
Do you have any links to peruse?, asked the bewildered gardener.


like my forefathers and foremothers

It was in that place somewhere some time ago when I ran into someone who had once been someone I knew and we talked about some stuff and it was so fun to reminisce about those times, whenever and wherever they were. When she left she said she'd call and I said I'm glad and I walked through the alley rubbing my head and seeing floating blue blotches and thinking of the hitchhiker whittling sticks on the burned out porch, not to mention the well-coiffed salmon with the monocle and gold tooth, and suddenly I knew I had to walk alone in the mountains and commune with the ducks and squirrels and live off the land like my forefathers and foremothers, and it was then I knew my life had been vague, a chalk outline in the clouds, purple without meaning and direction.

motionless on the hard pavement

The cans of tomato soup sat in a cardboard box on the loading dock of the grocery store. There was a bit of water seepage on one corner of the box. Five of the cans of tomato soup were dented. Three had sprung leaks, causing ten cans' labels to be damaged.

In the store, the store manager tightened his belt and tucked in his white cotton short-sleeve shirt. His tie had pictures of Tabasco bottles on it for which he'd saved up twenty proofs of purchase. It had taken three months to arrive, but he felt the wait was well worth it.

In the front of the store a woman worked the cash register scanning groceries. She was thinking about the store manager's threat to make everyone work on a holiday without overtime pay. A salmon came through her line and bought three-ply toilet paper, two lottery tickets, and some skin lotion. She noticed his wavy hair, gold tooth, and monocle. Hi, I'm Pete, he said.

In the parking lot the hitchhiker lay motionless on the hard pavement staring straight up into the blue sky. He was playing a harmonica. The instrument was lodged in his mouth, and his arms were at his side. He didn't know the name of the song because it was one that he had made up of his own accord, but it did sound vaguely Appalachian in its style.

On the loading dock, the cans of tomato soup remained in the box. From a distance, birdsong.

burned out porch whittling sticks

The hitchhiker had set down roots over the past month. He decided to try wearing socks and he got a job at Sears installing car stereos and alarms. He began a 401K plan and got married. The hitchhiker's wife built them a house and then she burned it down because it was too small. He said her actions seemed rash. He invested in an Internet startup company and retired. Every day he sat on his burned out porch whittling sticks, thinking about the open road, just the black strip of highway and endless blue sky. Freedom. Somehow the hitchhiker had allowed himself to get tied down over the past four weeks and he couldn't see a way out. It's difficult, he thought, to release yourself from the daily routine. His wife, sitting next to him knitting sweaters in a rocking chair on the burned out porch, often wondered what her husband was thinking about. This went on for many weeks.

a condo in the mountains

There are some mountains near where I live and they are covered in trees and snow and bears live there. Last week I heard mentioned that someone was going to build condominiums with wet bars and jacuzzis in those mountains and charge people a fee to walk on paths and see all the trees and squirrels and bears. This got me to thinking about the time I was doing laundry in a city in another country somewhere and how the machines there ran on tokens that you had to buy from some guy with a long gray beard and a blue and green striped rugby shirt whose breath smelled like absinthe. I bet he doesn't have to rent a condo in the mountains just to get to smell fresh pine needles and crisp high altitude air. I bet whatever city it is he lives in keeps lots of good things free and doesn't mind if you babble incoherently and sing national anthems while walking around chasing floating blue blotches and threatening Monarch butterflies with matches.

however many weeks or years

Recently, while shopping for paper plates, floss, apple sauce, light bulbs, cream cheese, hemorrhoid suppositories, fruit pies, pipe cleaners, masking tape, milk, stool softener, and pulp free orange juice, I ran into someone I had known from someplace and we talked about all the great times we had had wherever we had known each other however long ago it was and we really really laughed and enjoyed seeing each other again after however many weeks or years it had been. While the floating blue blotch was talking to me I spotted the pipe cleaners and excused myself and said I'd be right back. I jumped into someone's grocery cart and acted invisible and it seemed to work.

the drain said it had tried

She said once while we were smoking and making love on a pile of nails that I should walk slowly away from her through an alley of vomit and newspapers and give up all thoughts of what brand God smokes. I thought gee that's strange I know someone is here but all I see are floating blue blotches and all I can hear is a whistling noise and the national anthem of some country somewhere. I walked into the street and floating blue blotches honked and screamed at me. Suddenly a bird landed on my shoulder and farted. I cupped my hands and let the bird smell its own fart. It said thankyou and floated away. Just then the drain said it had tried acid more than once. I looked around for my monocle.

in that same city in whatever country

Once, in a restaurant in a city somewhere, I stared at a book of matches for some time. I wondered how I too could become a minister of God. Would God like it that I had been smoking? Does God smoke? Can God get emphysema and yellowed fingers and bad breath? I bet God smokes Benson and Hedges light menthol 100's.

Once, in an Internet cafe in a city in some country somewhere while my clothes were washing in the laundromat next door, I read online that some people like to cup their hands over their rear ends when they fart so they can smell their own farts. This made me sad for amputees who have to rely on wind currents or the kindness of friends or strangers.

Later, I was at a standup Turkish kabob stand in that same city in whatever country that was and I was whispering the Canadian national anthem to myself. "Oh Canada, with that flag that's black, light blue and white..." Someone told me that's not really how the song goes, but I generally like to make up national anthems as I go. "Oh say can you pass the ketchup, by the lawn in the eerie light..."

I think God should smoke. A cigarette is great after sex, or a Turkish kabob for that matter. The smoke accentuates life and makes it easier to ignore the floating blue blotches and images of angry women with hammers. The next time I'm some place where they sell stuff, I will buy God an ashtray.

the blue blotches

She said if you're looking for something to do you could take a walk barefoot through a pile of nails. Oh? That does sound like fun, I thought. It's been ages since I've had a nice healthy jaunt barefoot through a pile of nails. I hope some of them are rusty.

I don't know if you were paying attention, but she also suggested that you dip your head in lighter fluid and burn off all your hair. Apparently the scorched look is "in." Ooh, I do like to be fashionable. I wonder if this is what the fashionistas in Paris and New York are doing.

Once, I got lost walking in a city somewhere. Someone told me that my head had been damaged by a hammer. I could hear voices and I could see a long dark tunnel with floating blue blotches that moved around and around. They followed me. Later I woke up in an alley and she was there, caressing my back. Then she suggested I walk away from her slowly.

I wondered, is this what the fashionistas in Paris and New York are doing? The blue blotches made everything look wonderful, but the ringing in my ears was bothering me. The alley smelled like vomit and newspapers. I walked away from her slowly and into a long dark tunnel.

the good kind, three ply

The salmon pulled up on his motorcycle. His scales shone silver and glittered in the sun. He said his name was Pete and he'd come to town for toilet paper. I said the store's right there. He said thanks. Pete went into the store and bought toilet paper. The good kind, three ply. He also bought two lottery tickets and skin moisturizer. I was taken aback. I began crying. I cried for all the pitiful salmon who could not ride motorcycles with the wind in their hair, who could not shop at the grocery store, who could not spend afternoons dreaming of lottery winnings and smooth skin. I cried for my crying to stop. I hoped for a miracle for all the salmon. Most of all I hoped for a monocle.

the one musclebound kid

If you grew up in the Western United States in the 1980s then most likely you know about tumbleweeds and Irocs, beer bongs and hair bands. These are the images I see in the windstorm I imagine over and over: Bon Jovi in the desert as the sun descends over the horizon, a multitude of young women with huge hair (BHA: big hair alert), a small hole in the ozone following them around from millions of cans of hair spray. At every party there was always the one musclebound kid with straight sandy hair cut like a bowl, freckles, eyes that didn't seem to open all the way, and a consistently mean, nasty temperament. This kid was always near the keg, and often attached to a beer bong. Most likely today he's a successful stock broker who beats his dog.


the boy in the bean bag chair

Do you smoke pot? I smoke pot, said the hamster. I smoke pot, said the horned toad. I tried it once but I didn't like it and I didn't inhale, said the toaster. My wife used to sell it before she got so stoned she drove into a rhinocerous and totaled her car, said the pencil sharpener. I've tried acid, said the drain. Why does everyone care if I've tried pot asked the pot. Because it would be funny if you had, said Mr. Bubble. No it would not, said the pot.

The conversation went on for several hours while the boy in the bean bag chair drank grapefruit juice and considered the arrangement of ranch dressing flavor crystals on corn chips. He could see constellations and moonscapes and banana seat bicycles jumping over trash cans. He was hungry and needed to pee. His mouth was dry. Something was really funny but he couldn't remember what. Something was really very very funny. The toaster asked for some corn chips.

middle of a blinding dust storm

The hitchhiker stopped to massage his feet in peanut oil. His feet, blistered and brown and smelling of peanuts, would cause him to give up his travels for at least the next month. He looked around. He was standing in the middle of a blinding dust storm. A tumbleweed blew past and slammed into a chain link fence. There it would stay for the next four and a half years. The hitchhiker yawned. He scratched his elbow. He thought about chicken soup. Ten years ago his mother told him he could grow up to be President of the United States. That was a silly thing to say since he was a Canadian and atheist. The hitchhiker's mother would say "there is no god, eh, and the void that occupies the space god would if she were real don't make no junk, ya hoser." This made the hitchhiker feel better about himself. He rubbed peanut oil between his toes. A car drove by and a freckled boy in the back seat, perhaps ten years old, flipped off the hitchhiker. Where am I, wondered the hitchhiker.

all the pretty horseradish

The boys all decided to order rare prime rib with sides of au jus. The server had crossed eyes, but they were blue, and beautiful like the ocean. Her voice was sirenic and her chest flat. She wore a velvet cowgirl hat. Pink, it matched her underwear, though the boys did not know this. Only the omniscient narrator, and Tamara, the server, knew this. Tamara asked herself, I wonder if the narrator will also tell them about the tattoo on my left buttock? I was really drunk. The prime rib dinners arrived with baked potatoes garnished with butter and fresh ground pepper. The plates filled with blood and were lined with lumps of prepared horseradish. Tamara had eaten dinner before her shift started, some chicken dish the cook made up to get rid of leftovers. The boys wondered about her underwear, but not being the narrator, they simply had to be satisfied with all the pretty horseradish.

mastermind of a vast criminal empire

Some say the fire that burned down their house was started by the family's cat, Fluffy. Fluffy, a suspected meth cooker and convicted ivory smuggler, remained silent, saying only that she would miss the family's dog, Rex, who was tragically lost in the blaze. Later, Rex's remains were found in the smoldering embers of the fire, a bullet hole to his right temple. Fluffy was brought in for questioning but later released when an unidentified City Alderman posted bail. Subsequently, all charges were dropped.

Dateline recently sent an undercover reporter, "Mimi," to befriend Fluffy and try to find out the truth. Was Rex the victim of a mob hit? Is Fluffy the mastermind of a vast criminal empire? And who in City Hall is helping Fluffy to cover up her crimes?

all the pitiful salmon

The salmon was wearing a monocle and leather riding pants. He had a rubber riding crop and a gold tooth and sported expensive French cologne. When he pulled over in the convertible Cadillac he asked, in impeccable Spanglish, "Hey hombre, donde esta a good place for cerveza and oysters on the half shell?"

Taken aback, I began crying. I cried for all the pitiful salmon who could not drive, who could not talk, who could not sit in smoke-filled taverns knocking back beer and oysters. I cried for the world and prayed for a cleansing rain. Most of all, however, I wished for a monocle.


The previous post has been inspired by a love of Russell Edson, ketchup, saltines, farting, beetles, murder, Mother, Father, Sister, tattoos, anchors, nuclear nonproliferation, Annie Proulx, bellies, and, lest we forget, Yorkshire Pudding.

the murder of the helpless beetle

The family sat around the dinner table eating ketchup packets and saltine crackers talking about nuclear nonproliferation treaties and the short stories of Annie Proulx. Father sat in his white BVD's, his hairy stomach bulging; he scratched his Naval Academy anchor tattoo and said to Mother, "now, why don't you pass the Yorkshire Pudding, please?" Mother grabbed a handful of ketchup packets and threw them at Father. "Thank you," said Father. Sister leaned over and farted. "And thank you," said Father to Sister. "Would you like some Yorkshire Pudding, dear?," he asked her, wiping ketchup from his chin. "Why, yes Father. Thank you ever so much," she answered. Father opened several ketchup packets and spread ketchup all over his hairy belly. A beetle scampered across the floor toward Father, who crushed it with his bare foot. Sister leaned over and licked Father's belly. "This is very good Yorkshire Pudding, Mother," said Sister. "Thank you ever so much," said Mother.

How cruel of Father to kill the helpless beetle.

glittering mountains of gold

Sitting in the dark not smoking (it's bad for you) I was thinking about the sweep of human history, how over tens of thousands of years the earth was covered in people not smoking (it's bad for you) who hunted and gathered and learned pottery and poetry and began to think about laws and religions and sacrificing virgins to the gods (they're bad for you) who were usually, by most accounts, angry and jealous and spoke to humans as burning bushes or talking teapots or gossiping gooses (they're bad for you) but then somewhere along the line some people began questioning why they were always kept poor in a world of glittering mountains of gold (it'll get you) so they set sail across the stormy seas eating salt pork and scanning the horizon for shorebirds and slivers of land until finally they came across a continent and came ashore and proclaimed gold for god (or was it god for gold?) and the people not smoking who were already there hunting and gathering and practicing pottery and poetry began to think about laws and religions and sacrificing virgins for these new friends, these new friends whose eyes filled with glittering mountains of gold, spears, swords, blood, and religion.

(what won't get you?)


superman blanket and football slippers

A guest post by Hank "The Birdmangler" Buttspinscher, Jr., reporting from Torino, Italy, the site of the 2006 Winter Olympics:

First of all I'm not sure but I think the people here don't know jack shit about good barbecue and throwing peanut shells on the floor. These are two of my favorite hobbies back in the good ol', along with complaining about the 5% loss of motion in my shoulder, picking lint from my belly button, eating scrambled eggs, drinking tequilas and coke, racing tractors with the neighbor's wife, hanging out with the neighbor's wife, driving the neighbor to the airport when he goes outta town on business, tickling the neighbor wife's feet, smoking cigars in bed, scratching my rear, scratching the neighbor wife's rear, drinking beer, drinking beer, drinking beer, riding in grocery carts, waking up with the sun in my face, hanging out with the dog and the clicker, drapes closed, ice pack, warm Superman blanket, slippers shaped like footballs, leftover pork chops, mashed potatoes, playing pull tabs, gambling, spitting, shooting, scratching, screeching, drag racing, and Garfield.

loud, smelly gymnasiums

Well, let's give blogging a try. It might be as much fun as flogging, or juggling, or jogging, or mugging, or jiggling, or mumbling, or fumbling, or farting, or darting, or drawing, or bathing, or bamboozling, or boozing, or barfing, or crying, or crooning, or craning your neck, or massaging your girlfriend's feet, or using a flow-bee, or flossing your teeth, or baking meatloaf, or eating snails, or speaking Swahili, or mopping floors, or eating Top Ramen, or writing letters to friends who have died, or looking at old photographs, or imagining conversations, or dreaming of Greece, or getting drunk in the shade of a peach tree, or having sex under the seats in a crowded gymnasium, or imagining having sex under the seats in a crowded gymnasium, or having your photo clandestinely taken while you're having sex under the seats in a crowded gymnasium, or noticing that the cheers have gone silent in the crowded gymnasium, or staying at home for three weeks because you don't want to hear whispers and snickers in the grocery story (or at work, or from passing motorists while you're hitch-hiking, or from anonymous receptionists and clerks who all can see what you hope they're not thinking about, but they are); or it might be as much fun as writing really long sentences using words like ka-bipple or kerfluffle or curmudgeonly or sanctimonious, or using all the various shades of blue in the crayon box, or eating sand, or peeing into the wind, or walking on the beach with a dog, or playing frisbee with a dog, or petting a dog and dreaming of loud, smelly gymnasiums. I wish I were a dog.